I know I should be making lots of dishes with potatoes and turnips and leeks right now given the time of year and our collective obsession with sourcing locally. But damnit, sometimes I just want fresh tomatoes, no matter how far they traveled or how anemic they look in the store. They are too much of a staple in my diet for me to cut them out all winter long.
The best way to make use of the sad, pale wintertime tomatoes is to roast them, preferably with lots of flavorful aromatics like red onion, bell pepper and garlic. Thus the basis of this richly flavorful vegetarian soup, which is the perfect partner for a grilled cheese sandwich.
Or, if you prefer to make a meal out of the soup all by itself, add about 1 cup of small pasta shapes after pureeing and returning it to the stove. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes until the pasta is al dente.
1 pound Roma tomatoes, halved
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and quartered
1 large red onion, peeled and cut into 6 pieces
5 or 6 large garlic cloves, skins on
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock, divided
1 teaspoon sugar
Fresh basil leaves, for garnish
Method: Preheat the oven to 375F. Spread the tomatoes, bell pepper, onion (cut side down) and garlic in a single layer on a sheet pan. Drizzle with the olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and slightly blistered, stirring and turning them halfway through cooking.
Slip the garlic cloves out of their skins and tip the vegetables into the food processor along with 1 cup of stock. Puree on high for about 1 minute, until you have a smooth mixture.
Reserving 1 cup of the puree, strain the remaining puree through a fine mesh sieve with a spatula over a large pot. Note: You can strain the entire puree if you prefer, but I like my vegetable soups to have a little texture.
Add the unstrained puree, the remaining stock, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 7 to 8 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve hot, garnished with fresh basil leaves. Serves 3 to 4.